Creating a simple tzx file for the Sinclair Spectrum

Creating a simple tzx file for the Sinclair Spectrum
Learn how to
do more than
just leech
Amaze your
friends with
your 31337
tzxing skillz.
Now available
on video for
people to lazy to
Follow in the
footsteps and
learn the way of
the tape
for the Sinclair Spectrum – A Beginners Guide.
♦Convert your tapes to run on an emulator in 5 easy steps
♦Learn a whole new way to waste your life
♦Step by Step idiot proof guide – Go on, prove me wrong
♦Easy to follow instructions without one mention of FAQ
Learn to tzx your own
denied games and stop
encouraging sites which
disregard a copyright
holders wishes
♦You do NOT require a shed installed for this to work
Latest version only at and  Tony Barnett V1.1 30th Nov 30th 2005.
Creating a simple tzx file from a cassette for the Sinclair
This guide shows how easy it is to create a tzx file from an original cassette tape. Its
not meant to cover all the options or the times when things go wrong – Those are
covered in the advanced guide which is also available on this site – but should work
with the majority of tapes and the most common protection schemes.
In this example I am going to create a tzx file of the MIA (Missing in Action) game
Mah Jong by Spectre Software.
PC – This doesn’t have to be anything special or even high powered and most
people’s PC will be able to run the software needed. If your machine can run
Windows 98 then it will be good enough for this job. The one essential thing is a
soundcard but again this doesn’t have to be high powered and ultra up to date, any
soundblaster compatible card should do. The only real concern for older machines
might be disk space because the tape samples can be large.
Tape Deck
Any cassette deck should work.
Cooledit 2000 – This is used to sample the original tape. Any sound sampling
software can be used so long as it can output .voc or .wav files.
Maketzx – This is used to convert the tape sample into a tzx file. For people who
don’t like using the command line a windows GUI is available to make life easier.
A Spectrum emulator – I tend to use the Spin or Spectaculator Emulators but most of
the modern emulators can handle the tzx format.
TZXing for dummies
Step 1 – Connect everything together
Step 2 – Sample your tape
Step 3 – Save your sample
Step 4 – Convert your sample
Step 5 – Test your finished tzx
To soundcard input (mic) socket
TZX machine( Your PC)
Use the cassette to computer lead that
Comes with the early spectrums. If you
Don’t have it then a simple lead with
3.5mm jack plugs will work
From recorder “Ear” socket
Tape recorder
2, Sample your tape
Open Cool Edit and you should see a screen like this
Now we need to set the parameters for recording the sample.
Go to the “File” menu and choose “New”
This will present you with an option screen to set the parameters for our recording.
Don’t worry about all the options because we will always be using the same choices
to start with.
To work with maketzx you should always highlight the following options on this
Sample rate = 44100
Channels = Mono
Resolution = 8 bit
Then select OK and you will be presented with the recording screen
We are only interested in two buttons now. The start recording button which is the red
button towards the lower left corner of the screen and the stop recording button which
at the moment is greyed out. (after all we have to start recording before we can stop ☺
Now we have to play the original tape so Cool Edit can grab a sample. There are only
a couple of things here to take care with. Firstly make sure the tape is fully rewound
or we might start recording part way into the program which will guarantee the
process failing. Its important to make sure all the tape is captured and therefore its far
better to have ‘dead’ areas in the sample where the tape has nothing recorded on it
than to miss a single byte which will almost certainly mean the finished tzx file won’t
load or run correctly. The second thing to look out for here is the volume setting on
your cassette deck. In general its better to be too loud rather than too quiet and a
setting of about ¾ of maximum is a good guide.
Click the red “Record” button in Cool Edit and then press play on your Cassette deck.
As the tape plays you should see the bottom bar (in red) in Cool Edit come to life and
the sample should be recorded. Let the tape run through to the end to make sure
nothing has been missed like extra level data or maybe part two of that adventure
When your sure the whole tape has been captured press the stop recording button in
Cool Edit and you should see a screen like this.
As you can see from the main Cool Edit screen – Yes its all those green line things –
we now have the tape sampled. At both ends of the recording you can see where the
line goes flat. Don’t worry about this because this is the lead in and out from the tape
and shows we have all the tape sampled. If your short of disk space you can crop
these sections out but as we won’t be keeping this sample for long its not important.
3, Save your sample
Now we have the sample we need it in a form which maketzx can understand so we
need to save the file as either a .voc or .wav file.
In Cool Edit go to the file menu and select “Save As”.
Give your sample a file name – I have used MJ here and select the “Save as type” to
“Creative Sound Blaster (*.voc)”. I tend to save the file to the same directory as
maketzx but this isn’t important.
When you press “Save” you will probably get a warning message about saving the
sample to a “lossy” format. You can ignore this.
The sample should now be saved and you should see a screen similar to below as this
Now we have our sample so we can move onto making the tzx file so you can close
Cool Edit now and open Maketzx.
4, Convert your sample
To keep this as simple as possible we are going to use the Windows GUI version of
maketzx as supplied on this site. Full details of all the options available in maketzx
are in the instructions file but for now just double click the “mtzxwgui”
in the folder you have copied the maketzx files to. This should open up
what looks at first sight like a confusing options screen but don’t worry its not as bad
as it looks at first glance.
The first thing we need to do is to tell maketzx which file we want converting so use
the browse button to find the sample file we just created – MJ.voc in this case. We
also need to tell maketzx the name of the file to output so type in whatever name you
want. Again here I have used MJ as my filename.
The middle section of the maketzx screen is headed “Decoder Options”. The best
thing to do here is to click the checkbox by “Autodetect Loader”. This means maketzx
will try and work out if any special protection or recording schemes have been used
and adjust itself to suit. DO NOT click the “TZX beautifier” button. The advanced
guide explains why.
The third section of the maketzx screen, headed “Digital Filter”, is where you might
have to make some changes. Normally I start off using the settings shown below but
you might have to experiment with the filters a bit to get a good tzx file. The
advanced tutorial explains all this but most tapes should be OK with the settings
indicated in the screen below.
When your happy with the setting then simply press “start”
As you can see a Windows DOS command prompt opens and maketzx goes about its
From the readout we can see that maketzx has found 6 blocks of information in this
example. This will vary depending on the tape your trying to convert so don’t worry if
you seem to have dozens of blocks or even just a couple. I won’t try and explain what
all these things like “header”, “Line” and “Pause” mean here, that’s for the advanced
guide, all that matters here is we don’t have anything that says “error” or anything
nasty like that.
When your happy with the readout we can test the finished file in our emulator. Just
press any key to get rid of the command box.
5, Test your finished tzx file
Here I am going to use Spectaculator but just use your favourite emulator.
When your testing your newly made tzx file its best to change the setting on your
emulator to reflect the machine the game was originally made for and not to use any
of the fast loading options. Although most games will work on a variety of machines
sometimes they can crash if you use the wrong model. This doesn’t mean your tzx file
is wrong, the opposite in fact, you have managed to capture the same bugs as the
original had!.
And finally here we have the working game.
Downloads available from
tzx tools
Sound Recording
The Cooledit program used here is no longer on sale having been purchased by
Adobe and now released as Adobe Audition. If you need an Open Source (hence free)
alternative Sourceforge has some excellent choices.
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